By T.J. BURNHAM
Arrival of Byrd wheat from the Colorado State University Breeding and Genetics Program in August has been “one of the most anticipated variety releases in recent memory,” says Glenda Mostek.
As marketing director for Colorado’s Wheat Administrative Committee, Association of Wheat Growers and the Wheat Research Foundation, her observation mirrors a vast industry viewpoint.
The excitement for the release announced in late summer is based on the impressive performance of Byrd in trials in recent years, where it topped the state average in yields.
“Farmers are very interested in a high-yielding wheat variety that also has good drought resistance,” says Mostek.
• Colorado has released two new wheat varieties.
• Byrd outyields the state standard by 10%.
• A Clearfield variety brings a second Beyond tolerance gene.
Another simultaneous release from the program, Brawl CL Plus, “will give wheat growers the opportunity to knock out some of the more difficult annual grassy weeds such as feral rye, downy brome and jointed goatgrass,” she says.
Brawl CL Plus is a two-gene Clearfield wheat, providing producers with an opportunity to use methylated seed oil to increase effectiveness of the Clearfield herbicide.
CSU Wheat Breeder Scott Haley says the two hard red winter wheats are released after more than eight years of testing.
Research data, he reports, suggest that Byrd and Brawl CL Plus have the capacity to produce higher yields and excellent baking flour, even in the face of Colorado farming challenges such as drought, climate change and newly emergent insects and disease.
Haley is almost giddy when he considers the potential for the newest releases. The Colorado Wheat Research Foundation holds ownership and marketing rights to both varieties, under an agreement that also involves the CSU Research Foundation and Colorado Seed Growers Association.
In field tests, Byrd produced 10% higher yields than CSU’s popular Hatcher variety, which accounts for 35% of the state’s total wheat acreage because of its own high, stable yields.
“This is a blockbuster,” says Darrell Hanavan of Byrd. As executive director of the same triumvirate of organizations Mostek represents, he sends word to producers that the newcomer is a significant new starlet for wheat.
Byrd is named for Byrd Curtis, CSU’s first wheat breeder who led the university program for five years in 1963 before moving to another position. Brawl came by its name differently, so called for its ability to battle feral rye weeds.
Many Colorado wheat breeds can be traced to Curtis’ work.
“I wanted to make a historical connection and highlight the importance of long-term funding for public wheat breeding,” says Haley. “The CSU wheat breeding program that Dr. Curtis started is going on its 50th year of continuing activity and productivity.”
It is the first publicly developed winter wheat variety that carries a second gene (ergo “Plus”) for tolerance to Beyond herbicide.
Colorado growers can count on the CSU variety factory to continue to turn out new products, says Haley, whose biggest challenge today is birthing new cultivars that will endure the environmental stresses of growing in the state — stresses, he notes, which are constantly changing.
“We’re also on a quest for higher-yielding varieties because we’ll have a global population of 9 billion people by 2050,” he adds.
“We need to produce more food. We have to keep working.”
This article published in the November, 2011 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.